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Grants pouring in to assist Sunnyside's gang reduction initiative

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Community leaders and members gathered last night (Monday) for a gang reduction initiative meeting. Sunnyside's Promise Director Mark Baysinger (center) shared the different grant monies being sought to assist with gang reduction efforts. Also pictured are Sunnyside's Promise President Nate Bridges (left) and Sunnyside School District's Curtis Campbell.

Community members involved in Sunnyside's gang reduction initiative and the programs that have resulted from the grassroots effort were last night informed Sunnyside's Promise continues to seek and receive grants.

The grants will help bolster and promote projects initiated by the group's involvement in the community.

Sunnyside's Promise Director Mark Baysinger said the Yakima Community Foundation awarded the organization a grant in the amount of $100,000.

Another grant, the Justice Reference Architecture grant, addresses gang activity. That funding was awarded in the amount of $200,000, according to Baysinger.

He explained how the funding will be used, stating, "There will be two case managers...one at the middle school and one at Choices. That case manager will refer students to us."

The students referred to Sunnyside's Promise can agree to work with the organization to receive mentoring, counseling or whatever is determined to be the youngster's individual needs.

Baysinger told those gathered at last night's meeting parents will provide approval.

Also involved in the process are ESD 105, Comprehensive Mental Health and the Sunnyside School District.

Baysinger said the school district assisted Sunnyside's Promise in determining students in middle school are where gang activity seemingly escalates.

The grant, said Baysinger, will provide Sunnyside's Promise with the ability to provide forums and presentations for parents and students, as well as community members interested in learning precautionary measures that can be taken to prevent youngsters from becoming involved in gang activity.

He said the organization is also looking to receive a potential $300,000 grant to address substance abuse issues, and Sunnyside's Promise has applied for another grant from the University of Washington.

The university, said Baysinger, is interested in conducting research into gang activity and how systematic approaches might reduce such activity.

"The information gathered will help us when we are writing for other grants," shared Baysinger.

Sunnyside's Promise, he said, is also in the process of pursuing other grants that will benefit Sunnyside, including a recreation grant.

"We've got a lot of things going on," Baysinger stated.

In addition to seeking grants for the community, he said the soccer field idea that has been approved by the Sunnyside City Council as a result of the efforts of community members is progressing.

Baysinger told those gathered soil has been placed at the location for the purpose of leveling the ground. "The tree has been removed and I believe ground excavation will begin sometime this month," he shared.

He said there have been several businesses and community members who have willingly "stepped up" to assist in the effort.

Nate Bridges added a few comments, stating, "One community member stepped up to help pay for the weir box...he asked what we needed and went to the irrigation district and paid for it.

"People are saying, 'Let's get it done."

Other projects, too, are showing progress.

Baysinger said the Lucky 7 Bike Shop has received a statewide response and he is impressed as to the community's reception of the program.

"I think Sheriff Irwin brought that idea to us," shared Bridges, giving the sheriff accolades.

Irwin said a few words in response, stating his first idea was to provide youngsters automotive mechanic skills through an auto shop concept. He thought better of the idea and felt it needed to be scaled down.

"The (bike shop) idea was about to die down until Julie Kerr came in," shared the sheriff.

Dan White works with the program and said Kerr got him involved, and between June and September of 2009 the effort to forge ahead with the bike shop concept took off.

"We scrounged up enough bicycles and parts to put between 40 and 50 kids through the program," he said.

What astounded White, and those working with the youngsters, was the parent involvement.

"That was the crowning moment of the program," White told those at last night's gang reduction initiative meeting.

He said there has been an outpouring from the community. Donations have been generous, including some stands built by the Sunnyside High School fusion class.

There were, according to White, approximately 50 youngsters who were unable to get into the bike repair program last October. It is his hope the shop will be opening again sometime in late March and the youngsters turned away will be able to get involved in the program.

"We want the kids to work with other kids, we will have a bike sale and I'd love to coordinate a bike marathon," said White.

He said the program is still in need of volunteers, however.

Following his comments, Sheriff Irwin spoke to efforts to help the community of Outlook.

He said there have been two meetings with community members there. The focus of the meetings is to establish ways in which to curb graffiti and other crimes in the community.

Those at the last meeting, said Irwin, talked about forming block watches and graffiti abatement.

"It's about citizens looking out for citizens," he shared, stating funding has been provided for intervention in Outlook through a gang grant.

Approximately $3,000 will assist the community with graffiti abatement.

Further funding, said Irwin, will be provided through a $40,000 grant and another $4,000 will be provided through the meth action team.

He said several agencies are involved in helping the community of Outlook, including ESD 105.

The next meeting for Outlook residents, shared Irwin, will be Monday, Feb. 8, at Outlook Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.

Other topics covered last night included the progress of the gang reduction initiative's neighborhood program, the recreation program and the mentoring program.

New ideas are being bandied about regarding the creation of a new playground in Sunnyside, and the Sunnyside Police Department, according to Sunnyside Deputy Chief of Police Phil Schenck, is looking at providing several community forums in the next year.

The next gang reduction initiative meeting will be held Monday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at Sunnyside's Cornerstone Assembly of God, located at 400 North Ave.

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